In Missouri. It’s about time. In Missouri, there are only 376 public defenders to handle over 100,000 cases a year.
More from Balko.
I was hoping something like this would eventually happen, and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised it happened this fast:
A lawyer for one of the NYPD cops accused of doing favors for bribes — including mile-high sex with this hooker on a free trip to Las Vegas — said his client’s behavior was no worse than Hillary Clinton’s.
“It’s similar to what the FBI said about Hillary Clinton, and why she wasn’t charged,” said John Meringolo, a lawyer for James Grant, who pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.
“She was unaware she was committing a crime. Here, there is no crime whatsoever.”
Meringolo described his client’s alleged actions — swapping police favors for expensive gifts like the wild trip with prostitute Gabi Grecko — as mere violations of police conduct.
“There’s been similar conduct with private jets in the past,” he said, pointing to former Commissioner Ray Kelly, who he said “took a private jet” and then paid for it after the fact in order to hush criticisms.
NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Brooklyn businessman Jeremy Reichberg also pleaded not guilty to several charges on Wednesday, including conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud, honest-services wire fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive bribes and the payment and receipt of bribes.
This is absolutely perfect. Force everyone to see that the system is corrupt if it doesn’t allow others to get away with crimes like Hillary did. I am sure the usual collectivist morons will twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain why this is different, but it is not. Hillary, according to Comney, got off because she was too stupid to know better. I hope everyone uses this defense until the entire system collapses or loses its credibility completely.
Enjoy it people. This is what the rule of law looks like under collectivism. Our elites look down on us and think the laws only should apply to us, and not them. It is just deserts that some of the peasants are using the same defense that the corrupt political aristocracy used to get off.
Meet the latest victim of our hysteria over sexting:
In October of last year, during an unrelated investigation, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department seized the cell phone of a 17-year-old boy. He had a 17-year-old girlfriend. “While our investigators went through the phone they saw there were photos of himself and another person on the phone,” Sergeant Sean Swain told a local news outlet. “Simple possession having it on your cell phone is a charge itself, and if you should send it out to another person that is another charge.”
Now the boy faces five counts of “sexual exploitation of a minor” and the girl faces unspecified charges. Laws intended to protect kids are being used to prosecute them.
Had these images gone undiscovered they’d likely have done no harm at all to these young people. But thanks to the authorities, the boy has now had his photograph and name––which I am withholding but is easily found––published in the local newspaper and broadcast on television. He has been suspended from his high school football team. For months, he has had to deal with the intense anxiety stoked by facing charges of this sort and the prospect of life as a registered sex offender.
This is insane. And it’s not an isolated incident. About a year ago, I noted a case where the police wanted to force a kid to get an erection to confirm that some sext pics were his. In that incident, I said:
Look, I don’t want teens sending naked pictures of themselves around willy-nilly either. But the legal system is not designed for the subtleties of a parental chat. Once you call in the legal system, it deals with things the way it is designed to: with maximum firepower.
At the very least, we need to rewrite our laws to deal with this. It is insane and ridiculous to charge teens with kiddie porn for taking pictures of themselves. Teenagers have been taking naked pictures of themselves since the camera was invented. Hell, somewhere out there is probably a cave painting some prehistoric teenager made of his dick in an effort to impress a cute cavegirl.
I can’t say I’m surprised that we haven’t gotten anywhere on this. Violent crime has plunged in the last twenty years and it seems like the government’s response is to invent new crimes to keep the law enforcement industrial complex going. Witness prostitutes in Alaska being charged with sex trafficking … themselves. Now we have yet another teenager charged with exploiting … himself. Maybe they’ll tack on a molestation charge if he turns out to have masturbated.
Charges like this are usually justified by law enforcement as being necessary to teach kids that sexting has consequences. The Kafka-esque logic behind that is absurd: “we have to teach you that sexting can ruin your life by … ruining your life.” But there’s really no one fighting against this dangerous nonsense.
Last year, Hannah Rosin wrote a long form piece on sexting: why kids do it and how communities are responding. The upshot is that our laws are way behind the times. Many states don’t want to lessen the penalties for fear of being called soft on exploitation. And others have lessened the penalties but still regard sexting by minors as a criminal offense which can eventually be a felony. Rosin focuses on Donald Lowe, a sheriff dealing with a sexting scandal in Louisa County, Virginia, trying to navigate the law without ruining anyone’s life.
About a month into the investigation, Donald Lowe concluded that the wide phone-collection campaign had added up to one massive distraction. Yes, the girls who appeared on Instagram had done something technically illegal by sending naked photos of themselves. But charging them for that crime didn’t make any sense. “They thought they were doing it privately,” he told me, reaching much the same conclusion as Levick. “We’re not helping them at all by labeling them at an early age.” Lowe recalled to me a girl in his own high-school class who had developed a reputation as “the county slut, and it took her years and years to overcome that.” These girls didn’t need their names in the paper to boot.
The case Lowe was dealing with a little more complicated because some boys had put a bunch of sexts onto Instagram without the girls’ consent. But one problem he was up against was enormous community pressure to “do something” about … well, whatever people imagined was going on.
Law needs to change. That much is certain. But we need to change too. We need to stop reacting to stories like this by seeing the boys as predators or the girls as sluts. We need to stop seeing predators behind every blade of grass. We need to realize that teenagers are both stupid and horny and they are going to do stupid things like send naked pictures to each other. In short, we need to find the path that works so well with other vices: harm reduction. Educate teens about sexting (although they won’t listen). Work on ways to get pictures off of the internet and to punish genuine exploiters. But for goodness sake, don’t charge kids with child porn for sending each other naked pictures.
I’ve blogged twice before on the creeping criminalization of all things sexual. As I have noted many times, the goal here is not to prevent rape or sexual assault, per se. It is to enshrine radical feminist notions of consent into law so that women are considered victims, sex is considered non-consensual by default and any man can be guilty of sexual assault.
PERHAPS the most consequential deliberations about affirmative consent are going on right now at the American Law Institute. The more than 4,000 law professors, judges and lawyers who belong to this prestigious legal association — membership is by invitation only — try to untangle the legal knots of our time. They do this in part by drafting and discussing model statutes. Once the group approves these exercises, they hold so much sway that Congress and states sometimes vote them into law, in whole or in part. For the past three years, the law institute has been thinking about how to update the penal code for sexual assault, which was last revised in 1962. When its suggestions circulated in the weeks before the institute’s annual meeting in May, some highly instructive hell broke loose.
In a memo that has now been signed by about 70 institute members and advisers, including Judge Gertner, readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: “Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of ‘Criminal Sexual Contact’ under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).”
Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: “Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched.” So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. “With passivity expressly disallowed as consent,” the memo says, “the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint.”
That last bit will sound ominous to those of you familiar with our legal system. In some cases, prosecutors will pile up dozens if not hundreds of charges in the hope of intimidating out a plea bargain. Do we really think someone should end up on a sex offender registry for a stolen kiss? A bunch of lawyers think so.
The example points to a trend evident both on campuses and in courts: the criminalization of what we think of as ordinary sex and of sex previously considered unsavory but not illegal. Some new crimes outlined in the proposed code, for example, assume consent to be meaningless under conditions of unequal power. Consensual sex between professionals (therapists, lawyers and the like) and their patients and clients, for instance, would be a fourth-degree felony, punishable by significant time in prison.
Having sex under those circumstances can already lose you a job, a professional license, a reputation and a career. Do we really need to add prison time and registration to an act of slimy but consensual sex? A bunch of lawyers think so.
You should read the whole thing because it gets worse and worse. Stephen Schulhofer, one of the authors of this code, defends the proposal, saying the law would take a “light touch” to policing sex. I wonder if he could identify any time when when the law has ever taken a light touch to anything.
Yes most people will ignore this nonsense. But it would create a powerful tool for law enforcement to punish people they don’t like. Can’t convict a man of rape even though you “know” he’s guilty? Well here’s fifty charges of holding her hand without consent. And suddenly that “light touch” adds up to a twenty-year punch in the mouth. And I’ll give you one guess as to the skin color of the men who would be most commonly victimized.
Schulhofer compares such a law to speed limits:
To critics who object that millions of people are having sex without getting unqualified assent and aren’t likely to change their ways, he’d reply that millions of people drive 65 miles per hour despite a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, but the law still saves lives. As long as “people know what the rules of the road are,” he says, “the overwhelming majority will comply with them.
First, the majority of people don’t obey the speed limit. Second, the claim that speeds limits save lives is dubious. Third, there have been many problems with people ending up in prison because fines and fees leave them thousands of dollars in debt from minor traffic violations. Fourth … for the love of … speeding is a fine, not a prison sentence. Speeders aren’t put on offender registries. Speeders don’t lose their jobs because they sped. Speeders aren’t barred from being near children. The comparison is totally ridiculous.
The fundamental problem here is that there is a gray area where sex is concerned. Everyone would agree that if a man forces a woman to have sex with him, that’s rape. Everyone would agree that if two people have sex with complete enthusiasm that’s not. But what if one of them drunk? How drunk? Is one party manipulative? Has pressure been brought? What kind of pressure? Does repeatedly asking your spouse or girlfriend for sex count as pressure? What if you tell your boyfriend you’re going to cheat on him if he doesn’t have sex with you?
Over time, we have moved the black area to cover more and more behavior. Having sex with someone who is passed out drunk is rape (unless he’s a man, in which case you’re the victim). That’s as it should be. Coercing or defrauding someone into sex can be rape. That’s as it should be.
But there is a growing part of our culture that wants no gray areas. Everything has to be either has to be enthusiastically consensual or it is assault.
But human beings don’t work that way. We need gray areas, including gray areas in sex. We have and should turn some of that gray into black — there was a long time where a rape victim was blamed if she was drunk. But the idea of turning all of the gray into black is the kind of absolutist idea that only lawheads and fanatics believe in.
This is often tied to reasonable-sounding questions: “Well, why should a woman have to endure a man kissing her if she doesn’t want to be kissed?” She doesn’t. But the law is a crude instrument with which to deal with these things. Any time we have tried — any time we have tried — to inject the law into complex human interactions, it has been a disaster. It has ended up destroying lives, throwing people in prison, and creating a climate of fear and distrust.
One of the NYT’s commenters:
This is a power play by people who know nothing about power other than their desire to have the power to force their vision of sexual exchanges on others through totalitarian state power, totalitarian because it superciliously uses the state to inject into ALL the most intimate adult relationships their own weird ideology, completely unrooted in biology, psychology, or sanity. The heart has its reasons reason does not know so.
Mind your own damn business. Take responsibility.
It is pathetic that this perverted nonsense is taken seriously in the name of rape. It is a perfect storm example of why american contempt for the academic and the intellectual and the professor is justified and the Emperor’s New Clothes remains relevant. The ALI isn’t what it was. It is like the founder’s grandson running the business into the ground.
We should have a debate over how we define rape and sexual assault. That conversation has resulted in enormous progress on the question. But we should not cede the floor to the absolutists and lawheads. That way lies disaster.
One final note: several commentators have joked — or said seriously — that young men should hire sex workers rather than deal with this nonsense. While I favor decriminalization of sex work, that joke isn’t funny. The same people who want to make holding hands into sexual assault want to make patronizing a prostitute into rape. They believe that all sex workers are victims and all johns are predators. And our laws — under the guise of fighting sex trafficking — are coming into line with what they want.
The people who want to keep sex work illegal are the same people who want to prosecute people for holding hands. There’s a lesson in that somewhere …
Columbia Law School is allowing students to postpone their final exams this month if they feel unnerved by the recent grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.
The policy was announced by the school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, in an email on Saturday to the school community. A small number of students have received postponements, a Columbia spokeswoman, Elizabeth Schmalz, said on Monday, though she declined to say how many.
In his email, Mr. Scott wrote that following existing policies for “trauma during exam period,” students who felt their performance could suffer because of the decisions in the Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island cases could request a delay.
“The grand juries’ determinations to return nonindictments in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases have shaken the faith of some in the integrity of the grand jury system and in the law more generally,” he wrote. “For some law students, particularly, though not only, students of color, this chain of events is all the more profound as it threatens to undermine a sense that the law is a fundamental pillar of society designed to protect fairness, due process and equality.”
Other schools have announced or been asked to consider similar policies.
You know, a lot of people were upset about the Ferguson verdict and especially the Garner verdict. But you know what? We learn to go on with our lives despite trauma that does not personally involve us. And if this is going to “shake your faith” in the legal system so badly that you can’t take an exam, what the hell are you going to do when you’re the attorney on the business end of a bad jury decision? Putting aside the specifics of these two cases, no one has ever claimed that our justice system is perfect. If you’re exposed to it for any length of time, you’re going to have to deal with crushing disappointment. In fact, there is no profession in the world where one does not have to deal, at some point, with disappointment. There is no person in the world who will go through life with dealing without pain a lot more intense than a grand jury verdict involving strangers.
What’s next? Time off for final exams if their team loses the Super Bowl? I’ve had it with college and graduate school students who are made of eggshells. Everyone’s “offended”. Everyone has “triggers”. Everyone is obsessed with “microagressions“. We have thousands of students around this country who can’t get through a day without a fainting couch. Amy Alkon:
This behavior is coming from students who have grown up in what, at any other time in history, would be considered luxurious comfort. And that is true of almost most people who grow up in America, even those who do not grow up in middle-class families.
I believe that so much comfort — and the notion that even the slightest discomfort is a form of injustice — has played a role in both many people’s unwillingness to stand up for our civil liberties and in the witch hunts going on on campus. Oh, the horror that a professor would correct your grammar!
And yes, there’s obviously all sorts of multi-culti victim studies-think behind this, too — of course — but I think the perceived “right” to comfort at all times is something we’ve overlooked.
But you know what? I strongly suspect this is bullshit. I would bet the euros left in my wallet that this is mainly law students trying to weasel out a few more study days. And I suspect the school knows this, if their faculty aren’t complete morons (always a possibility). I suspect they’ve allowed this because they want to “make a statement” about the verdicts.
The Senate has release their report on the CIA torture program:
The CIA’s harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees during the Bush era didn’t work, were more brutal than previously revealed and delivered no “ticking time bomb” information that prevented an attack, according to an explosive Senate report released Tuesday.
The majority report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a damning condemnation of the tactics — branded by critics as torture — the George W. Bush administration deployed in the fear-laden days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The techniques, according to the report, were “deeply flawed” and often resulted in “fabricated” information.
The CIA immediately hit back at the report, saying in a statement that the program was “effective” and substantially helped its understanding of Al Qaeda’s tactical operations and goals.
I am disinclined to believe the CIA on this, given their desperate attempts to cover it up, which included the destruction of video tapes of interrogations and attempts to spy on members of Congress. The report was trimmed down from more than 6000 pages to the current 480 and large parts were redacted at the behest of the CIA. And it’s still pretty damning. The initial reporting is that it included weeks of waterboarding and sleep deprivation, usually used almost immediately after capture.
I’ll post more as commentary comes in and I get a chance to read some of the report. The report itself is here.
Detainees were deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were sometimes told that they would be killed while in American custody. With the approval of the C.I.A.’s medical staff, some C.I.A. prisoners were subjected to medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” — a technique that the C.I.A.’s chief of interrogations described as a way to exert “total control over the detainee.” C.I.A. medical staff members described the waterboarding of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, as a “series of near drownings.”
The report also suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The committee obtained a photograph of a waterboard surrounded by buckets of water at the prison in Afghanistan commonly known as the Salt Pit — a facility where the C.I.A. had claimed that waterboarding was never used. One clandestine officer described the prison as a “dungeon,” and another said that some prisoners there “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”
The report also addresses the CIA’s list of terror attacks they claim were prevented by torture, noting that in most cases the torture information was either inaccurate or confirmed information they already had.
You can read the response of ex-CIA directors here.
Update: A look at claims made by the CIA that torture worked. None of them stand up to scrutiny … according to the CIA’s own documents.
So Obama gave his big speech last night about immigration. The big change is he will extend temporary legal status to about 4-5 million illegal immigrants. To qualify, they will have to have been here five years, have US citizen relatives and have not broken the law (I mean, other than the ones they broke getting here). There is no path to legal status, a green card or citizenship (at least, not yet). And, of course, the next President could undo it.
I’ve made it clear where I stand on this: we need to make it easier for people to legally come here and work; we need to make it harder for people to come here illegally; people who came here illegally should not be moved to the front of the line when it comes to getting legal status. The underlying problem is that we have a broken immigration system. We have a system where coming to America to work involves a long, drawn-out, frustrating and expensive process and becomes a big driver of illegal immigration. Until we fix that, illegal immigration is still going to be a problem. I’m also sympathetic to the arguments that our immigration policy shouldn’t break up families or send people back to countries they’ve never lived in.
All that having been said, I still don’t like what the President is doing.
First, he is doing this by executive fiat without any consultation with Congress. Now I absolutely agree that Congress has dropped the ball on this. Over and over again, they have refused to do anything about our immigration mess. But this does not make the President’s unilateral action wise or even constitutional. Our Constitution does not have a “Congress are being assholes” clause. In fact, the Justice Department informed Obama, they day before his speech, that his actions were of dubious legality. When your own justice department tells you that, that translates into plain english as “this is fucking illegal.”
Even if you assume that he has the authority to act here, that still doesn’t make it right. He’s not even giving Congress a chance to do something about immigration. Obama told the last Congress to stall on immigration until after the election. He has not given the lame duck Congress a chance to act nor has he given the new Congress a chance to act. If he were doing this six months into a Republican Congress, he might have a point. But then again, the new Congress is unlikely to give him the kind of immigration reform he wants. Thus, the petulant act.
Second, Obama can dress this up all he wants. He can claim this isn’t an amnesty. But as noted Matt Welch — a supporter of massively expanded immigration — this is amnesty. When you say you will not deport people who break the law, that’s pretty much the definition of amnesty.
My fellow supporters of vastly increased legal immigration to this country do not, I believe, further their cause by retreating into soft-focus euphemism (DREAMers!) or sidestepping uncomfortable language just because it has proven politically effective for people on the other side of the issue.
If you recognized the existence of more than 10 million unpermitted residents in this country as the product more of prohibition than of criminality, and acted upon that insight foremostly by expanding and deregulating legal immigration, then I predict the word “amnesty” would start to lose some of its negative potency. People really resent line-jumpers when the queue stretches back as far as the eye can see; speed up that process and our national debate would look a lot more reasoned and thoughtful.
Exactly. I lived in Texas for four years. We had a lot of people who did work for us that I’m sure were of questionable legal status. They worked hard, they took care of their families, they obeyed any laws unrelated to immigration. But they were still law-breakers. I want to see them get a chance to come to this country legally. I do not want to see them get that chance ahead of people who have obeyed the law.
The laws against illegal immigration aren’t like a law against free speech or for discrimination. Coming to this country illegally is not an act of civil disobedience. This is a serious business.
Finally, the President’s verbal gymnastics did not persuade me; they annoyed me. He argued very well that we need immigration reform. He didn’t persuade me at all that this was what we needed McArdle:
As an act of rare semantic derring-do, this was a towering achievement. As a political speech, I don’t think it was very effective. It puts one in mind of the debate in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which ends when one side manages to prove that black is white — and gets themselves killed at the next pedestrian crosswalk.
To be honest, it’s not clear to me that the president was trying to be persuasive. He seemed, rather, to be triple-dog-daring Republicans to jump off the bridge with him, and if history is any guide, they will probably oblige. But there’s a real risk that Democrats will come to regret having the president jump first.
(McArdle also points out the significance that his speech was only broadcast on Univision. And that is a key point. A lot of this speech wasn’t about advancing policy; it was about trawling for latino votes. Expect the ability of the next President to undo Obama’s amnesty to become a big issues in 2016.)
So what should Republicans do? The most common tactic I hear is recession — using the budget process to defund the President’s actions. I would support that but I think it’s small. A better idea would be for the Republicans to pass their own version of immigration reform and dare the President to veto it. Force his hand. Force him to choose his executive fiat over the legal and constitutional moves of the Congress. Show that Republicans are not a bunch of anti-immigrants racists; they just want the law to be obeyed.
The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country’s wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas.
Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.
Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.
First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.
Well, duh. The Forestry Service is claiming they are protecting the wilderness from being exploited for commercial gain, as dictated in the Wilderness Act of 1964. I don’t have the exact language of the law in front of me, but that reeks of bullshit. The Act has been in place for fifty years and we haven’t needed this. It’s one thing to enact rules to prevent a camera crew from traipsing through and destroying protected areas. But requiring a permit reeks of censorship. Mataconis:
What if, for example, a national or local television news reporter were covering a story based on allegations of malfeasance by Forest Service officials that made taking video on Forest Service land relevant? How, in that context, is a reporter supposed to apply for a permit to begin with? From the descriptions of the process, it appears that media outlets are required to provide some kind of justification for why they need the video in question, and in this case that would require the reporter to either lie to a government official or potentially reveal the story they are working on to people who are the focus of that investigation. In a case like that, if a permit is denied, the strong implication would be that the agency had something to cover up because of the manner in which it was restricting press access.
Gee. I have no idea why a government agency might want to vet what’s being reported out of their bailiwick.
Don’t think is happening in a vacuum. If the Forest Service can restrict media access to public lands, other agencies will start restricting media access as well. This is a trial balloon by the Feds. And it needs to be popped.
Chalk another exoneration up to DNA evidence:
Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half brothers were declared innocent and ordered released Tuesday by a judge here.
The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.
The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.
It’s cases like this that have moved me to a neutral position on the death penalty and now have me leaning against it. Had we gotten the speedy execution that many wanted, not only would we have executed two innocent men, the real murderer might never have been identified.
In the end, the case against the death penalty is not a liberal one. I’m not terribly moved by appeals to mercy for those who have none. Nor do I think executing men who rape and murder little girls makes us “no better than them”; there is a colossal moral difference between raping and murdering a child and executing that murderer. No, the case against the death penalty is a conservative one: that the government has demonstrated, a couple of hundred times now*, that it can not be trusted with the power to execute people.
For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.
In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection.
This crime was particularly heinous. If there was anyone you’d want executed, it would be two mean who raped and murdered an 11-year-old girl. But does the horror of the crime justify potentially executing the wrong men? Is that horror not compounded by the man who committed this horrible crime getting away with it for thirty years? We were lucky he was arrested before he could do it again. In the Michael Morton case, where an innocent man was sent to prison for life because of prosecutorial misconduct, we were not so lucky. The real killer likely murdered another woman two years later. Would we know that if Morton had been unjustly executed instead of being sent to prison for 25 years?
Ultimately, I keep circling back to the victim in this case, a girl who was the same age as me when she was so brutally killed. If she had not been slain by Roscoe Artis, she would now be 42, possibly with a family of her own. When a child is murdered, an entire universe of possibility is destroyed. For all the mocking Scalia is getting on the liberal blogs, he was right: it is hard to argue against lethal injection for someone who would do such a thing. Frankly, it’s hard to argue against beating them to death right there in the courtroom. But an execution wouldn’t have brought Sabrina Buie back. And I don’t see there is any value in adding two more tragedies to that one. And for someone depraved and evil enough to do such a thing, I don’t think the threat of the death penalty is what’s holding them back.
Two innocent men have been freed and a guilty man identified. That’s something and we should be happy about it. But we came very close to killing two innocent men for a horrifying crime they didn’t commit. And it’s not the first time. That should give us all pause.
(*Hard numbers on the number of death row inmates exonerated are surprisingly difficult to come by. Anti-death penalty advocates say it’s a couple of hundred. Pro death-penalty advocates say it’s less than that, but admit to at least a few dozen.)
This sounds like a really good idea:
It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.
Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter….
In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.
I’ve written before about why removing obscure out-of-date laws is important: such laws give law enforcement the ability to harass and arrest anyone they don’t like for trivial legal violations. They leave citizens in a state of perpetually violating some law somewhere. But Dayton’s changes go beyond that with real cutting of red tape and tax laws.
Notice that he didn’t “gut regulation” or anything else. He simple cut away the cruft that accumulate on any legal system over time.
This sort of thing is needed at every level but especially at the federal level. I would vote for any President who would stop making laws for a few years and overhaul the ones we have. We have a legal system where hundreds of billions, possibly over a trillion dollars, are lost to regulation and tax code every year. We have a regulatory structure that doesn’t make us any safer and caters to powerful interests. Democrats talk big on new energy sources but see nothing wrong with a regulatory system for just running a power line can run into a decade of legal bullshit.
An unsession for America. We need one. Badly.